Challenge the system of greed
The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last week passed a resolution urging the cancelation of Third World debt. This formed the basis for the contribution of Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in support of a Dáil motion on 12 April calling for an increase in Dublin government aid to the Third World with the aim reaching the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2003. Here we carry an edited version of his remarks.
``The level of development aid from this state is a disgrace. This island is now among the wealthy nations of the world and part of the largest trading bloc - the European Union. Yet, the generosity of our people is not matched by the level of aid allocated on their behalf by successive governments. No government has been in a better position to ensure that the state reaches the UN target.
The Irish government is prepared to be part of an EU military force of 60,000. Imagine what such a number of people could do with the same resources spent, not on arming them but on providing the means to work on long-term development and short-term emergency aid in Third World nations.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Speaking from Ethiopia on RTÉ's Six-One News, Fr. Jack Finucane of Concern said that ``we now have a golden opportunity to prevent a major catastrophe from taking place''. Yet, we know that for many thousands and possibly millions, emergency aid will come too late. The obscenity of the casualty figures will be personified on our television screens by starving children.
How often is this to be repeated before we challenge the system of greed by which this planet is ruled?
While the people of Mozambique were devastated by flooding, their government was sending $1.4 million per week to its debtors. Where was the rapid reaction force to help those people as they clung for their lives to trees and rooftops? Where is such a force for Ethiopia?
The Irish government, however, is prepared to be part of an EU military force of 60,000 with massive spending on armaments, as signalled by Javier Solana in Dublin last month. The government is not in a position to criticise arms spending by governments in Third World countries when it is preparing to bring us into such an army which will provide a bonanza for the arms industry. Solana told us that this force will be capable of staying in the field for up to a year. Just imagine what such a number of highly trained and equipped people could do with the same resources spent, not on arming them but on providing the means to work on long-term development and short-term emergency aid in Third World nations. It would be phenomenal.
The debt burden is the first and foremost obstacle to progress and justice in the most impoverished parts of the world. The foreign debts of developing countries are growing at a rate that is simply out of control.
Debts have risen for all developing countries, from a total of $610 billion in 1980 to $2.3 trillion in 1997.
When the poorest countries are diverting precious resources from areas such as education and health to pay foreign creditors, economic logic as well as moral duty demands the cancellation of their unpayable debts. While the summit of G7 leaders in Cologne in 1999 agreed improvements to the existing framework of debt reduction, it did not go far enough to meet the fundamental objectives of debt cancellation. Equally, their proposals on debt relief raised many concerns, including the fear that these countries will have to leap through even higher hoops to qualify for the debt relief on offer. The Cologne initiative will give little to a few countries and nothing, sadly, to many others.
The poorest countries simply cannot meet their debt service obligations.''